The Criterion Collection is the gold standard of important cinema releases on home video. Since 1984, the Criterion Collection has released special edition LaserDisc, DVD, and Blu Ray editions of more than 800 films selected for their cinematic importance and overall quality. The first two films released in the collection were LaserDisc editions of Citizen Kane and King Kong.
Despite having so many films in their catalogue, there are a few that have slipped through the cracks. (That or the filmmakers won’t give consent, but alas…) Here are ten films we believe need a Criterion release. Some are art films with niche audiences, some are categorically classic, and others are some kind of in-between. Regardless of their scale, we chose these films for their cultural impact, the quality of their filmmaking, and in some cases, the need for a remastered version of a seminal, but aged film.
Park Chan-wook’s 2003 neo-noir thriller Oldboy is a work of art. The second film in Chan-wook’s Vengeance Trilogy, Oldboy is a taut thriller with a unique premise, incredible visuals, and top-notch acting. The hallway/hammer action sequence alone should earn it a spot in the Criterion collection, but there is so much more to Oldboy than great action sequences.
Oldboy follows Oh Dae-su, a down on his luck businessman who is imprisoned in a hotel-style room for 15 years. He has no idea why he’s there or who is holding him. Once he’s released, he goes on a mission to find his captor and get revenge. Then things get really, really weird.
The people who made Oldboy put a lot of passion into the filmmaking. In a making-of featurette, star Choi Min-sik prays after each scene where he eats a live octopus. He’s a Buddhist and felt deeply pained for the three octopi that died in the making of the film. The sequence where Oh Dae-su destroys a number of enemies in a corridor with just a hammer as a weapon took three days and seventeen long takes to shoot – a decade before the True Detective single long take blew the minds of audiences. Oldboy was groundbreaking as a film and in its subject matter.
The film won the Grand Prix at the 2004 Cannes Film Festival. It was critically applauded and even got an American remake directed by Spike Lee. It’s an important film, and while there is a decent 10th anniversary edition Blu Ray, Criterion could really up the features. [Danielle Ryan]
A Face in the Crowd
After the game-changing On the Waterfront, director Elia Kazan and screenwriter Budd Schulberg collaborated on this terrifying examination of how politics would be fundamentally changed by the introduction of television into American homes. The story follows a hapless drifter named Lonesome Rhodes who finds himself becoming a beloved public figure. As his star rises, his influence and lust for power intensifies until he is helping to shape politicians and the minds of the masses.
At the center of this grim parable is Andy Griffith’s landmark performance. If you only know Griffith from his time in Mayberry or as defense attorney Ben Matlock, you need to see this movie. It is a bone-chilling piece of work that touches a darkness most actors never dare to explore. Griffith’s performance alone demands recognition in the Criterion Collection. It’s that important.
A Face in the Crowd has become somewhat forgotten by modern film fans and that’s a shame. It’s a disturbingly prescient piece about the cult of personality and how the line between entertainer and public servant has been permanently wiped away. [Drew Dietsch]
Suspiria is one of those rare horror films that really sticks with the viewer. It’s as beautiful as it is haunting, a tale of ancient evil corrupting the young. Director Dario Argento uses colored lights to make every scene visually impressive. It’s one of the prettiest horror films ever made, with elaborate sets, huge washes of color, and exquisite camera direction. Argento even printed the film on one of the last three-strip Technicolor machines in existence in order to give the film its hyper-saturated palette.
Suspiria didn’t shy away from bloodshed, earning it an X rating. Argento depicted each death in a way that the murders are both beautiful and horrifying. It’s a unique way to take on a horror film, and it made Argento famous. Suspiria has a handful of problems (bad acting, terrible sound quality), but the whole of the film is brilliant. This is horror elevated to high art.
Currently there aren’t any good copies of Suspiria available, though Synapse Films are currently remastering a number of Argento’s films and Suspiria is set for a Blu Ray release. It would still be great to see a Criterion release of Suspiria, complete with all of the extras and quality Criterion are known for. Suspiria is an important part of genre film history and deserves to be part of the collection. [Danielle Ryan]
Drive is everything a popular film in the Criterion Collection should be. It demands to be watched, drawing your eyes with a great cast, beautiful cinematography, and propulsive editing. Plenty of blockbuster flicks have those things, but Drive is a small movie that administers a concentrated shot of arthouse style. That style comes from notoriously finicky director Nicolas Winding Refn (The Neon Demon), an artist of extremes. He wants the repellant to look beautiful so that you can’t look away.
After Refn won the Best Director Award for Drive at Cannes, FilmDistrict released Drive in the US in the fall of 2011. The movie drew a lot of critical acclaim and made a surprising little haul at the box office. A devoted fandom quickly gathered to sing its praises. It’s an aggressively male movie, and Ryan Gosling’s Driver is an exaggerated model of masculinity. He’s a man with a method and a code of ethics. He’s competent, sexy, stoic, polite, protective, and lives a spartan lifestyle. It’s easy to see why guys love Drive. And I love it, too.
Drive‘s importance to the pop culture landscape is worth noting. It’s not subtle or particularly smart, but it is a breakout arthouse film that exerted a strong influence on pop culture in the ensuing years. It is stylistic touchstone, a particular vibe, lightning in a bottle. It also needs a better Blu-ray release, so how ’bout you get on it, Criterion? [Travis Newton]
Enter the Void
Gaspar Noe is a controversial filmmaker whose movies are extreme in almost every way. His third film, Enter the Void, is a disturbing examination at the afterlife, human relationships, drugs, and the city of Tokyo. Noe made a deal with the Yakuza to work as security on the set, and in return was allowed access into places otherwise restricted to foreign filmmakers. As a result, Enter the Void feels more authentic, with the characters exploring a variety of beautiful and bizarre places in Tokyo.
Enter the Void is more of an experience than a traditional film. The movie follows drug addict Oscar during a drug deal that goes wrong. He gets shot and dies in a public restroom. His consciousness ascends and he follows his loved ones around Tokyo. He peeks in on others as well and has flashbacks to his traumatic childhood. Just prior to his death, Oscar was reading The Tibetan Book of the Dead and doing loads of DMT, and the film’s aesthetic reflects that. The entire movie feels like a pseudo-religious psychedelic trip.
Unlike Noe’s other films, Enter the Void feels hopeful. His previous works (I Stand Alone and Irreversible) are brutally depressing, but Enter the Void offers a chance at redemption and happiness. It’s a brilliant philosophical film featuring good performances and astounding visuals. Enter the Void is different every time you watch it, and it really sinks its teeth in. [Danielle Ryan]
Hour of the Wolf
Ingmar Bergman’s films make up a huge chunk of the Criterion Collection. The Seventh Seal, The Virgin Spring and Wild Strawberries are all part of the release library, but not all of his best works are available yet. Hour of the Wolf might just be the most wanted of Bergman’s films yet to be distributed by Criterion.
In Hour of the Wolf actor and Bergman alum Max von Sydow plays a tortured artist who lives on a remote island with his wife played by Liv Ullman. The two struggle with their relationship as the artist Johan falls into a depression, and the other inhabitants of the island begin to intrude on them. The story goes from being a stark drama to becoming a psychological horror very quickly and ranks right up there with Bergman’s Persona as being one of his darkest films ever made.
The Criterion Collection is ripe with excellent releases of historically relevant films for different regions and cultures across the world. Their dedication to preserving the works of Ingmar Bergman and Svensk Filmindustri is honorable, and so far just about every relevant movie from the area has been made available. Hour of the Wolf is still hard to find, but if Criterion did it right the film would finally be properly available to fans who want it the most. [Andrew Hawkins]
Quentin Tarantino’s iconic 1994 gangster film inspired half of the movies that came out in the years following it. Pulp Fiction featured witty dialogue, nonlinear storytelling, loads of violence, and black humor. It’s also ambiguous about its setting – it’s clearly Los Angeles, but whether it’s 1974 or 1994 is anyone’s guess.
Pulp Fiction was a critical darling. It was nominated for seven Oscars (it lost Best Picture to Forrest Gump) and won for Best Original Screenplay. The film was also awarded the Palm d’Or at Cannes. It reinvigorated John Travolta’s career and put a number of major actors in roles no one could have expected. (In particular, Bruce Willis’ Butch character and storyline was shocking in 1994, only six years after Die Hard). The film’s soundtrack is great, the acting is fantastic, the script is one of the best ever written, and it’s shot masterfully. Pulp Fiction is one hell of a movie.
Pulp Fiction probably doesn’t have a Criterion release due to Tarantino being a notorious control freak, and it exists on Blu Ray in the Tarantino Collection. Criterion have a knack for tweaking films, however, and even Pulp Fiction could use an edit or two (Esmeralda, I’m looking at you). It’s not likely to ever happen, but a girl can dream. [Danielle Ryan]
What do you get when you cross Penthouse Magazine, ancient Roman history, and Gore Vidal? The result is the 1979 historical drama Caligula, based on the notoriously insane emperor. Caligula was an attempt by Penthouse founder Bob Guccione to create the first mainstream big budget porn film. It has an all star cast of classically-trained British actors such as Malcolm McDowell, Helen Mirren, and Peter O’Toole. However, they play in front of sets that featured horrific acts of Italian exploitation. Caligula is a sword and sandals epic film only with blood, nudity, and excessive torture.
Caligula is an odd film with a mixed reputation. It has unfairly appeared on more than one list of the Worst Films Ever Made. Gore Vidal wrote the script and ended up disowning the film over director Tinto Brass made changes. Tinto Brass himself disowned the film over Bob Guccione’s decision to add in hardcore sex scenes in post-production. Frankly Guccione ruined the film, adding continuity errors and sex scenes that grow tedious after awhile. In Puritan 1979 this film was a huge controversy. Roger Ebert was so disgusted he walked out. (He gave the film zero stars.)
Sexually explicit material is certainly nothing new for the Criterion Collection. Somehow dirty French movies from the Seventies are high art, but dirty Italian movies are just sleaze. Caligula gets the reputation of being just trash, when it’s really the crossroads of B-movies and arthouse. It definitely has historical merit. It would also be great if this relic of the Golden Age of Porn could see a restored release removing some of Guccione’s additions. [Eric Fuchs]
Me and You and Everyone We Know
Me and You and Everyone We Know is an unconventional little indie film with a huge heart and a belly full of laughs. The directorial debut of Miranda July, the film features several intertwining stories about the weirdness of existing. The film deals heavily in magical realism. For example, a character taps a quarter on a signpost to “pass the time” and makes the sun rise. Despite the movie being set in the real world some tiny surreal moments that give everything a fairy-tale like quality.
Me and You and Everyone We Know is, at its core, about people connecting. As we struggle to define our relationships with others, they have a way of cementing themselves. The interactions between the various characters are great and feel surprisingly real. One scene with a young woman who accidentally has a romantic online chat with a child and then meets him in a park is as sweet as it is awkward.
Roger Ebert called the movie one of the best of the decade. It won 22 different awards, including the Critics Week Grand Prize at Cannes. It’s an incredible little film that more people should see, and a Criterion release could ensure just that. [Danielle Ryan]
Piano Tuner of Earthquakes
Directors Timothy and Steven Quay are masters in the art of stop-motion animation. Their ability to craft unique stories with dolls, puppets, marionettes and automata owes a lot to the work of Jan Svankmajer, but their films are singular and unparalleled. No other pairs of filmmakers compares to these two craftsmen of nightmares and dreams.
The Piano Tuner of Earthquakes is already part of the Criterion family by way of Terry Gilliam. There are quite a few avant-garde films similar to this in the collection that feature comparable themes, so it would be a perfect title to release if the rights were available. This is one that would fit perfectly in the shelf next to Brazil, Eyes Without a Face and Science Is Fiction.
The Quay brothers are huge influences in the modern animation world, and The Piano Tuner of Earthquakes is one of their most ambitious works to date. The film stars Cesar Sarachu, Anita Casar and Gottfried John in brilliantly dark and dreamlike roles that set the tone of this surreal tale beautifully. So far, no copy of this movie does justice to the original print and no one other than the Criterion Collection would be perfect for the task. [Andrew Hawkins]